My daughter began asking the inevitable Santa Claus plausibility questions final 12 months. She had simply turned four, and on Christmas Eve she rattled off a litany of queries: How does he get to all the homes in a single evening? How will he get inside if our door is locked? Doesn’t he really feel sick from all these cookies? She requested solely me these questions, not her father, though I’m Jewish and he’s our resident Christian. Maybe as a result of she knew I used to be extra prone to inform it to her straight — youngsters can odor your uncertainty, and she or he sensed I wasn’t absolutely dedicated to this Santa enterprise. In response to her skepticism, all I may muster was: “He’s magic!”
A sorry excuse for a solution, I do know. But it surely’s one which I come by actually.
It’s not my fault I didn’t have a extra elaborate response. My brother and I weren’t introduced up with a lot faith — my mother and father are Jewish atheists. My mom is the daughter of Holocaust survivors, and on the comparatively uncommon events she did encourage something non secular, it was as a result of she felt it was necessary for me and my brother to find out about being Jewish, and that what was completely different about us from our friends was one thing to be appreciated. Because of this, Christmas was definitely not celebrated in our home: no bushes, no flickering lights festooned on our roof, no “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and for certain no Santa Claus. My mother and father went out of their strategy to deal with Dec. 25 as if it had been an everyday outdated day, when all the things simply occurred to be closed.
Sooner or later — I’m certain in response to my whining about lack of Christmas accoutrements rising up in a largely Christian city — my grandfather tried to assist out by claiming that there have been Hanukkah elves who carried out Santa-like duties for little Jewish youngsters. I bear in mind not shopping for it for a single second.
Now the tables have turned. My daughter is 5, and she or he’s just about a kindergarten Woodward and Bernstein: When considered one of her buddies claimed that she and her Three-year-old sister each misplaced enamel and had a go to from the tooth fairy, my daughter marched residence, recounted the story, then insisted that I textual content that woman’s mom to ask if the tooth fairy actually visited, as a result of she didn’t imagine her buddy’s tall story. The mom texted again, “My child is so filled with it,” and my daughter was smug.
She was placated (or, a minimum of, so I believed) by my Santa-is-magic response for 9 months or so. Then one evening we had been watching an episode of a weird French cartoon she likes, “Zig & Sharko,” that had a Santa-based subplot, and she or he turned to me and requested, extra earnestly than she beforehand had, “Mother, is Santa actually actual?”
I panicked, taking pictures again a regular, “What do you assume?” To which she replied, “I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking you — I need to know for actual.” I couldn’t punt to my husband, who wasn’t but residence from work, so I mentioned, “No, honey, he’s probably not actual.” Seeing her ever-so-slightly disillusioned expression, I requested, “Are you OK?” “Yeah,” she mentioned, then went again to watching the cartoon hyena attempt to stab the shark.
Later, once I advised my husband that I had advised her the reality, he was aggravated: He liked believing in Santa, and did so for longer than most children. “You need to have mentioned, ‘The magic of Santa is actual.’ ” Or one thing. I used to be aggravated proper again: “I’m Jewish,” I mentioned. “I don’t have a script for this!”
It blew over rapidly, in fact. However this minor kerfuffle strikes on the coronary heart of our fumbling interfaith marriage. Like me, my husband didn’t have a very non secular upbringing. He often attended Episcopal providers as a child however by no means with any reverence or deep perception. Because of this, we unintentionally put issues of religion off till we had youngsters. Then, as soon as we had a toddler, yearly we stored saying, “We actually ought to determine this out,” after which we’d say, “Nah, she’s too younger to know what’s happening; we’ll determine it out subsequent 12 months.”
We efficiently kicked the can down the street with out even minor strife, going to Passover Seders, placing up a Christmas tree, remembering to gentle Hanukkah candles 5 out of eight nights, till the Santa Incident. As my daughter will get older — and as she was joined by her youthful sister final 12 months — it pains me in some existential strategy to be elevating the ladies with out faith. But it surely’s arduous to pinpoint precisely why. I don’t have a religion custom that I really feel strongly sufficient about to impart in a going-to-temple-every-week type of means.
On the similar time, I can’t simply depart it at “no matter.” My shiny, curious baby deserves higher than that. When she received days off from faculty for the Excessive Holy Days this 12 months, she requested why I had by no means advised her about Rosh Hashanah earlier than. She appeared a bit harm that I hadn’t knowledgeable her about one thing necessary sufficient to overlook kindergarten for, so I sincerely apologized and advised her we’d have a particular dinner subsequent 12 months.
It’s not an ideal reply, but it surely’s one thing. The one certainty is that we’ll maintain grappling with this as our youngsters develop.
In the end for Christmas 2017, I advised my husband that I’m comfortable to place up a tree, and I’m OK with telling her about Santa within the first place. However perpetuating the Santa fantasy is a bridge too far for this Jew. He understood.
In the event you’re nervous concerning the state of my daughter’s 5-year-old sense of wonderment now that she is aware of the deal about Santa, don’t. It’s nonetheless intact. Not lengthy after she discovered about Mr. Claus, she requested me if unicorns had been actual. Since we’d already established that Mother was the straight-talk specific, I used to be extra comfy being sincere once more. “No, they’re not actual,” I mentioned. And he or she mentioned, “Effectively, everybody on the playground says they’re actual, so that you in all probability simply don’t know for certain. I believe they’re actual.”
Now she needs extra My Little Ponies. For Christmas. Or Hanukkah. Presents, it appears, are common.